Listening to the prostitutes of Ypsilanti

So, I was cruising around the internet tonight, looking for some content to rip off, when I happened across a posting from February on the site of Ypsi’s Prospect Park Neighborhood Association about local prostitution – a subject that we’ve discussed here quite a bit in the past. This article was particularly interesting, however, in that it included details from prostitutes themselves. Here’s a clip:

Last night at the Citizens Police Academy there was a panel discussion on narcotics and prostitution in our fair city. The panel consisted of 4 panelists 2 males and 2 females all of whom had spent time on the streets of Ypsilanti.

The most shocking news to me was that they performed about 25 tricks each, every day of the year. The going rate of each trick is between $20 and $60.

So even on a slow day the money is astronomical. $20 X 20 a day X everyday of the year = $146,000. It was a really mind opening number and the math works according to police numbers and the girls own perceptions…

I, of course, knew that we had a prostitution problem in the City, but I had no idea that there was even remotely as much business as these individuals are claiming. I guess I was naïve. I thought that maybe there were about a dozen Johns a day looking for sex along our strip of Michigan Avenue, and that all the people working the street competed for that business. I thought, on “good” day, a prostitute might get two or three propositions, if they worked all night. I had no idea that we were really talking about upwards of a thousand people a week engaging in this kind of dangerous behavior within the boundaries of our City. And, to be honest, I had no idea that we even had male prostitutes. (I guess there’s a whole other world out there while I’m here on the floor of my house, writing around with back pain, and wasting what few talents I have on this blog.)

If the Michigan Department of Transportation’s annualized average daily traffic (AADT) maps are correct, we get approximately 19,600 vehicles traveling down Michigan Avenue each day between Huron and Hamilton. If we’re getting 100 of those stopping for sex each day, which I think sounds reasonable given the statements of the former prostitutes, that means that more than 1 out of every 200 cars rolling through town is looking for illegal sex. That’s an extremely troubling thought.

I think it’s great that the police department set up this session on prostitution as part of their Citizens Police Academy, but I wish that it had been more open to the public. I’d love to see us have a comprehensive, citywide discussion on prostitution. I realize that it might be difficult to get prostitutes, or former prostitutes, to come out and participate in a large, public forum, but I think that people in the community could really benefit from hearing their personal experiences. I know the police are spread thin at the moment, but one would hope, at some point, they, perhaps working with church groups and social service organizations, could initiate a meaningful discussion about prostitution, what’s worked elsewhere, and what options we as a community have.

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  1. Posted April 2, 2009 at 10:01 pm | Permalink


    Only one of the guys in the forum had prostituted and I believe that was mostly in Detroit. The 2 ladies were full time Ypsilanti street girls. I can’t think of the Lieutenants name that conducted the panel but he and Dawn Farm are responsible for getting these folks off the street. It was my impression that this forum was a voluntary thing he’s been doing for quite a few years as a way to help them and give information to the citizens. It is my guess that the panel wouldn’t be comfortable in front of a much larger audience. Perhaps, you could get the Lieutenant to arrange the forum for yourself and a few other people and videotape it to share with others. The panel was very open and gave pretty solid advice about talking to teens as well as those that have already fallen into the trap.

    What I came away with was that nothing was going to get them off the streets but if they were hassled they would move off your street. It was all about the drugs and nothing but getting the drugs.

    If you have enough people interested in neighborhood policing I would contact chief Harshberger and ask him about getting involved in the Volunteer Service Corp and helping the police patrol the streets.

    Keep in mind that my numbers were conservative since $20.00 is the low not the average trick. It was pointed out that almost all of the money earned each day went straight into the hands of a local drug dealer. All that money earned X number of prostitutes = an amazing number.

    As for the number of tricks each day, that number was confirmed by both the panel and the police. I forget the number of contacts they get when they have an undercover cop on the streets but it was some amazing number in a couple of hours.

  2. Ol' E Cross
    Posted April 2, 2009 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    I’ll wait to comment until the usual legalizing prostitution because it’s a victimless and time-honored business venture so let’s build a brothel folks have had their say. (I think there was a better, older link, but that’s the one I could find.)

  3. Tom
    Posted April 3, 2009 at 5:05 am | Permalink

    No “victimless crime” folk here, but I would like to say that “getting these people off the street” is an absurd euphemism for shuffling disempowered people into a deadend makework world where nobody experiences empowerment. Yes, streetwalkers are generally stepped on, alienated from their own lives. But so are the “legitimate” workers in the lower rungs of our capitalist economy.

    In not so many words: I’d like to see a hookers’ union. That and working class retribution overall.

  4. Posted April 3, 2009 at 6:02 am | Permalink

    I’m a legitimate worker in the lower rungs of our capitalist society, and I don’t need anyone getting working class retribution for me, thank you. I hear they’re accepting messiah applications down the street.

  5. Kristin
    Posted April 3, 2009 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    The SEIU organized exotic dancers at the Lusty Lady in San Fransisco. I have a t-shirt from teir local that says “Bad girls need good contracts.” There’s some stuff about their experience here. I suppose prostitutes would come under “independant contractor” and might not be able to invoke protections.

  6. Brackinald Achery
    Posted April 3, 2009 at 7:47 am | Permalink


    Seems to me, the individual drug dealer/pimps that rake in all that prostitute dough would be the most expedient targets for cutting down on this problem.

    I wonder how far legalizing drugs would go towards enervating individual drug dealer/pimps’ businesses. I bet a long way.

    This suggestion is not intended to rid the world of prostitution or drug addiction. Just to hurt these guys’ businesses who facilitate and encourage drug addiction and prostitution.

  7. Paw
    Posted April 3, 2009 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    We need a new ordinance enforcement officer. That would take at least one person off the street.

  8. John on Forest
    Posted April 3, 2009 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    $146,000? Are these girls really working 365 days a year? Don’t they get vacation and weekends off? What about holidays? Now, even if they got 2 weeks vacation, 8 days holiday, and weekends off (or two other days of the week if weekends are when they do their work), they would still be making $96,000. I’d be happy making that kind of money right now.

  9. John on Forest
    Posted April 3, 2009 at 8:20 am | Permalink


    I want a discussion on the proposed hard surface water runoff fee. See page A3 of Wednesday’s Ann Arbor News.

  10. Paw
    Posted April 3, 2009 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    Given the economy, I’m afraid we’re going to see more and more people turning to prostitution as a way to make ends meet.

    The pun was unintentional.

  11. Daniel
    Posted April 3, 2009 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    I think any honest discussion of prostitution should include the major economic force in Ypsilanti – the drug trade (primarily crack cocaine). Legalization of prostitution and soft drugs (marijuana) could generate significant tax revenue. This is turn could help fund substance abuse treatment for those with a serious addiction – which include many prostitutes.

  12. Posted April 3, 2009 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    In Reference to legalizing drugs.

    The question of legalized drugs was brought up to the panel and all four stated that they would never buy drugs from the government. They said they didn’t trust that the drugs the government would sell would be any good and that they would not want to be around ‘normal people.’

  13. tommy
    Posted April 3, 2009 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    This really fits in nowhere, but as I saw a documentary on the Lusty Lady girls’ efforts to unionize (not often that you can watch something educational and see some T & A at the same time) a while back, I give you the following:

    We don’t need the prostitutes ’round here, but who could argue with having one of these in the park along the river?

  14. Mike
    Posted April 3, 2009 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    If anyone actually believes a hooker on Michigan Ave makes 6 figures, I have some land near Chernobyl I’d like meet with you about…

  15. roots
    Posted April 3, 2009 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Well, how much you “make” is a moot point if you’re turning right around and spending it on drugs anyway.

  16. Lisa
    Posted April 3, 2009 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, I think they probably really ARE making that much. I just read one figure (which I can’t seem to confirm in the 2 minutes I’ve looked ) that put the annual cost of buying heroin for a year at around 180,000. Which explains the 1) Motivation; 2) Poverty in spite of the high income.

  17. Posted April 3, 2009 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    I would not doubt that they are making that much, but nearly all of it goes to drugs. I personally know heroin addicts who used to blow nearly 10K a month. Addicts are extremely resourceful people.

  18. Borisgoodenough
    Posted April 3, 2009 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Wonder what it means that the post on prostitiution gets 16 comments (and counting) while one on an Academy Award-winning actress on the streets of Ypsilanti only gets two.

  19. Mike
    Posted April 3, 2009 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    I doubt it. No way are those crackheads eating pole 20 times a day, 365. They are hookers, not cold call traders….

    Besides. When exactly did we start believing addicts who walk Michigan Ave. I wouldn’t trust those people to remember their phone number.

  20. jean
    Posted April 3, 2009 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    I’ve known a few women who turned tricks and all were heroin addicts. One worked the truck stops, and never had trouble supporting her habit there. I doubt one could sustain the job (or the purported pace) without an addiction as motivation. Any rules of normal behavior do not apply. As Dude said, addicts are very resourceful. No doubt they bankrupted their families and robbed their friends before turning to prostitution. If there were no addicts, there would be very little prostitution. Two sides of the same coin, both well established institutions. Dawn Farm is a remarkable place. They are always out front.

  21. Posted April 3, 2009 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    Most people, as Mike has demonstrated, don’t know anything about addicts.

  22. Posted April 3, 2009 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know that there’s a solution. Given the resources available in the community, there may not be. I just like the idea of some kind of coordinated effort, even if it’s just to make the women aware of resources. It seems to me that it should be something the local churches could take on. I don’t know, however, that it’s something that’s ever been attempted.

  23. Posted April 3, 2009 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    The only thing you can do is get guys to stop paying for sex. Where there’s a market, people will sell.

  24. Vera
    Posted April 3, 2009 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    Dude- You have inspired me to take on the cause! Who else wants to join me walking the streets and giving it away for free?

  25. Posted April 3, 2009 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    Now that’s a good plan.

  26. Brackinald Achery
    Posted April 3, 2009 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    Save us, Taxi Driver!

  27. Ol' E Cross
    Posted April 4, 2009 at 12:35 am | Permalink

    Everything I’ve read indicates 10-20 tricks a day is pretty average. Hell, I’ve made around $20 per hour at certain jobs, and it was barely enough to pay the bills, let alone a hundred to five hundred dollar addiction.

    It seems like some folks think prostitutes mostly lean on street lamps and meet a couple of gentlemen a night. $40 a day don’t buy shit. That’s only $14600 per year, excluding pimp tax.

    We need to come to grips with the fact that street prostitutes are working drive thrus and playing fast food with their bodies. We need to get Pretty Woman out of our head and realize what it means for people to perform sex with a dozen (or couple dozen) saggy balled strangers each day.

    I’d like to see those in favor of brothels and unions discuss, specifically, their proposals for daily cock limits, rates and benefits (health care) packages.

    Under a legalized system, how many daily cocks would the average worker need to blow to be given health care and a living wage (including addictions)?

  28. Tom
    Posted April 4, 2009 at 3:38 am | Permalink

    Black Jake: I like the way you think. So, you prefer that the people effected by decisions have proportional power to cooperate and make those decisions? I’m with you there. Something tells me it’s been done before with some fanfare. I’ll look into it. Honestly, who said anything about people doing shit on your behalf? I was talking about people doing shit together on their own behalf. You can keep yourself out if you so please.

    OEC: Maybe you missed the point of brothels and unions: it’s not your or my decision to make such stipulations. Unless you want to find a new line of work.

  29. Mike
    Posted April 4, 2009 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Posted April 3, 2009 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    Most people, as Mike has demonstrated, don’t know anything about addicts.

    Good point. Being FAODP certified with 7 years experience in substance abuse recovery hasn’t taught me much, so please, enlighten me of the ways dude…

  30. jean
    Posted April 4, 2009 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    Wasn’t a whole lot of indication of your knowledge (or empathy) in your post back there, Mike. Maybe you should re-read it and rephrase instead of waving around your resume.

  31. Posted April 4, 2009 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Obviously, it hasn’t taught you much, Mike.

  32. E. G. Penet
    Posted April 4, 2009 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    In addition to the few dollars storm water tax may or may not produce, why not decriminalize/legalize and license (tax) prostitution, which would require a “drug clean” blood test and HIV swab every six months. Street walking would still be an offense. The real pros would stay clean, operate behind closed doors and would be independent from pimps to run their own businesses. This might take care of 30%-50% of the problem, at least. And it would certainly reduce the amount of Chor-Boy scrubbers in our gutters and park bushes.

  33. Posted April 4, 2009 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    That wouldn’t take care of anything since outcall escort services already exist, legal or not. People would still sell buy and sex on the street.

  34. Posted April 4, 2009 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, it hasnt been my impression that legal brothels in Nevada have meant no illegal hookers in Vegas.

  35. Brackinald Achery
    Posted April 4, 2009 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    Maybe the best solution is to hassle them till they leave your neighborhood after all. And maybe work with charity groups to help people that have made really self-destructive decisions who want to change. Beyond that, there’s no set of rules or public policy that will cure human evil that I’ve ever seen.

  36. dragon
    Posted April 4, 2009 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    The prostitutes work for their pimp. They never see a dime of the money they make. If the don’t want to be smacked around they work till they bring in $500 bucks that day and are kept stoned enough to not feel it. It’s rarely their “choice” to get help or not. The woman would need access to enough money to to completely leave the city and go into drug rehab far enough away to feel safe. Almost impossible.

  37. Ol' E Cross
    Posted April 4, 2009 at 11:00 pm | Permalink


    I certainly might have missed the point. I thought the suggestion of unions was one meant to provide some benefit for the workers? I thought you, yourself, were suggesting stipulations that “unless you’ve found a new line of work,” you had no business suggesting.

    For you, EgP, and others, I’ll ask again: Specifically, how many cocks would you like to see street workers suck a night to receive “working class retribution.” If there needs to be unions, what would you suggest is an honest nights work? And, Tom, please no more bullshit about “that’s not for us to decide” when you suggested unions. How many cocks?

    EgP. the last proposition I’ve had in town was by a fellow suggesting I give him and his “girlfriend” five bucks for a blow job which was supposed to extra special because she didn’t have any teeth.

    Given that she is unlikely to make your tax-base enhancing professional grade, what is your solution for her? I think it’s a relevant question because my impression is we’re not talking, in the least, about Spitzer’s Emperor’s Club here…

    And, although I’m tired of saying this (from past posts), my anger comes from the being in the one church I’ve known that, as a community, cared deeply for a former prostitute, who was a legally deaf, mentally handicapped addict who turned hundreds of tricks in front of her young son. She had vaginal cancer. If only she’d had a union…

    Tell me how to regulate, tax and empower a Julia Roberts’ smiley face on her life and I’ll listen.

  38. E. G. Penet
    Posted April 5, 2009 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Unions? Nah …

    Descriminalization/legalization will address some portion of the public health and criminal issues involved. Some. If people do not need to commit a crime to get or use drugs and prostitution, then we’ll all be a bit safer. A tax is simple.

    The larger social and economic issues about why people abuse drugs and alcohol and each other also need to be addressed

    And, yes, in the meantime, we’ll enforce the laws we have to brush prostitutes from one park to another, from one end of town to the other, as their pimps chase them down on bicycles no less. Such efficiency!

  39. Posted April 5, 2009 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    I don’t believe this photo was shot in Ypsi, but it seemed relevant somehow.

  40. Patrick
    Posted April 6, 2009 at 12:26 am | Permalink

    Why is the Russian girl so expensive?

  41. Vera
    Posted April 6, 2009 at 3:46 am | Permalink

    They charge by the pound.

  42. Suzanne Styles
    Posted September 27, 2011 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    I know all or most of the prostitutes in Ypsilanti,there are a few guys that cross dress. I worked at the Washtenaw County jail for 6 years and got to know the girls pretty good. Yes their out there doing trix for drugs. The problem I see is the drugs.Not the girls. If we got the dealers then we wouldn’t have the girls. It’s a vicious cycle because it’s a money making business. When I say this I mean the county. They bring them in and let them go repeatedly. Get the drug dealers, they are the problem,let’s face it the county is making money and so are the dealers.

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